Reedsburg officials declared a health emergency amid the growing cases of COVID-19 around the state and nation.
The Reedsburg common council unanimously approved to authorize Mayor David Estes to sign an emergency declaration at its March 23 meeting. City Administrator Tim Becker said declaring the emergency was to position Reedsburg to receive potential funding for costs incurred during the emergency, like lost wages and equipment.
While the costs haven’t amounted to much as of March 24, Becker said he expects those costs to grow as the amount of cases increase.
“Those costs are probably coming,” Becker said. “We just want to be prepared.”
Reedsburg follows Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells, which announced emergency declarations last week, as well as other communities around the state, as reported cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise. Reedsburg’s declaration comes after Sauk County reported its first case of COVID-19 March 19. As of March 24, the Sauk County Health Department has reported four positive cases with 87 testing negative for the virus.
During the meeting the council’s nine members separated into two rooms, with the one small group phoning in from the city hall meeting room and the other in the council chambers, to maintain six feet of separation and mandate by Gov. Tony Evers to ban gatherings of 10 or more people in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. A monitor was set up in the lobby of city hall for members of the public and media to view the meeting.
Reedsburg Area Management Director Josh Kowalke said he is keeping department heads and the council informed of any updates and information related to the virus. He encouraged Sauk County residents to sign up for Nixle alerts by texting your zip code to 888-777 to receive updates.
Kowalke said Reedsburg is supposed to receive some of the national stock pile of personal protective equipment.
Everyone on the police, fire and EMS has been fitted for N-95 masks and the police department and ambulance service is asking for donations of regular face masks with ear loops and N-95 masks, he said. The Reedsburg Police Department also posted a message on its Facebook page March 23 requesting the items.
“If you happen to have a box laying around we certainly would accept them,” Kowalke said, adding used ones will not be accepted.
Estes’ message before the council adjourned into closed session was to remind the community “we are Reedsburg Strong,” a phrase developed during the 2018 floods to remind the community to work together during hardships. He said to not panic, follow the state orders, don’t hoard items at the grocery store, look out for each other, support the local businesses and keep the essential workers in mind throughout the pandemic.
“Together we will get through this,” Estes said. “We’ve just got to take it one day at a time.”
With the April 7 spring election still on as of March 24, City Clerk/Treasurer and Finance Director Jacob Crosetto said 733 absentee ballots have been issued as of March 24, equaling about a third of the estimated 1,900 voters in Reedsburg. He said Reedsburg estimates to hit about 1,000 absentee ballots by the time the spring election happens. The state and Reedsburg is encouraging requesting absentee ballots to reduce the number of people at the polls in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Crosetto said the state elections commission online voter registration is available until March 30 or anyone can come into city hall to register in person. Absentee ballots must be requested by April 2, he said. Voters can request an absentee ballot by mail online at myvote.wi.gov/en-us.
Poll workers are still needed to assist with the voting process and those who want to sign up can call city hall at 608-524-6404 by March 27, he said. He said certain precautions will be taken on Election Day, like keeping polls six feet apart and setting up hand sanitizing stations.
The council unanimously approved to extend TID’s 3, 5 and 7 for one year as allowed by state statute to encourage future work and affordable housing development in Reedsburg. The final year’s increment will be collected in 2021.
The council unanimously approved to amend its ordinance on facsimile firearms to ban the display or carrying a fake or toy replica of a firearm. The ordinance matches state law.
Estes issued a proclamation declaring April 2020 as Donate Life Month to recognize the need for organ, eyes and tissue donors.
After the regular meeting, the council adjourned into closed session under state statue Chapter 19.85. Becker said in a March 24 follow up interview the council approved to authorize to forgive the payment in lieu of taxes for the 2018 year due in 2019 to Sharratt Warehouse and Distribution of $64,812 when it reconvened into open session.
Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews.
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